19 user 5 critic

Dead Men Tell (1941)

Approved | | Comedy, Crime, Mystery | 28 March 1941 (USA)
A treasure map in four pieces, the ghost of a hanged pirate, a talking parrot, and a ship full of red herrings complicate Charlie's search for a murderer on board a docked ship.



(original screenplay) (as John Larkin), (based on the character created by)


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Complete credited cast:
Robert Weldon ...
Steve Daniels
Jimmy Chan (as Sen Yung)
Jed Thomasson (as Don Douglas)
Laura Thursday (as Katharine Aldridge)
Paul McGrath ...
Mr. Parks
Bill Lydig
Truman Bradley ...
Capt. Kane
Miss Patience Nodbury
Lenita Lane ...
Dr. Anne Bonney
Milton Parsons ...
Gene LaFarge


Eccentic, elderly matron Patience Nodbury has a treasure map she's inherited from Black Hook, her pirate ancestor. To foil a mysterious thief who has tried to steal it, she divides it into four pieces, three of which she gives to fellow passengers booked to sail on the Suva Star, an old wooden sailing ship chartered for a treasure hunt on an offshore island. She is convinced that, according to family tradition, Black Hook will visit her before she dies. When the peg-legged "ghost" does just that, and she suffers a fatal heart attack, Charlie and Jimmy are faced with a boatload of red herrings including Bill Lydig, an escaped convict, Gene LaFarge, a certifiable neurotic accompanied by a personal psychiatrist, and the embittered Captain Kane, who was marooned on a deserted island by his ex-partner and vows revenge. Written by (duke1029@aol.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

28 March 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan in Dead Men Tell  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The twenty-eighth of forty-seven Charlie Chan movies. See more »


When Jimmy Chan is in a tavern, while he is crouched down against a wall, a dart is thrown at a target near him. When he rises, the guide wire can be seen for the dart against his dark sweater. See more »


Inspector Vessey: [Referring to Jimmy] Kid's got a head on his shoulders.
Charlie Chan: Very good news if true.
See more »


Follows Charlie Chan in Panama (1940) See more »

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User Reviews

One of the biggest 'unknown' diamonds among crime movies
15 March 2014 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

If many of the other 'Charlie Chan' movies are real gems, some smaller, some quite big (like "The Black Camel" or "Charlie Chan's Secret"), this much lesser known film is perhaps the 'Golden Jubilee' among them all - and among mystery movies in general. With moderate, but immensely effective means, this mixture between a scary ghost story and a solid whodunit goes way beyond the general line of the 'Charlie Chan' series: there are elements of horror that can compete with any horror classic of the time, while the atmosphere is overall Noirish, with everything from the characteristic lighting effects to the feeling of doom that seems to hang over the protagonists as much as the fog on deck...

Strange, but very determined elderly Miss Nodbury, the ancestor of a notorious pirate who was hanged for murder, has organized a 'treasure hunt' on the island where the pirate's treasure is hidden - worth 60,000,000 dollars! But she wants to call off the trip on board the old pirate ship 'Suva Star' the last minute, because the night before somebody tried to steal the pirate's map that was in her possession - but the old lady is clever: she has divided the map into four parts and kept only one part to herself, while she sent the other three to members of the expedition. Still, somebody obviously is craving for ALL of the pieces, and so, on the same night, pirate captain "Black Hook" himself, in whose ghost Miss Nodbury has always believed, seems to come in order to claim them and summon Miss Nodbury to her ancestors...

Now don't believe that this is just another whodunit with only a little bit of 'ghost hokum' in it - there are moments when the strange, melancholy melody that 'means death', as Miss Nodbury insisted, and the sound of the pirate's wooden leg approaching ACTUALLY make not only the expedition members, but also us think our conviction that there ARE no ghosts over again...

But then, of course, there's a VERY real murder to solve; because while you COULD explain Miss Nodbury's death as a natural one, due to her heart problems and her strong belief in ghosts - you certainly can't put the blame for the suffocation of a man in an old diving bell on supernatural powers! And there's a really illustrious group of suspects on board, from a numismatist who doesn't seem to know his occupation's scientific name to a neurotic and his woman psychiatrist to the hardened, taciturn captain himself...

This movie is indeed perfect in EVERY way: the eerie atmosphere the direction creates with all means from the settings to the sound effects to the shadows and the fog is completed by a marvelous cast - in particular Ethel Griffies as the pirate's heiress is simply MAGNIFICENT. In order not to scare the wits out of the audience completely, of course some humor is added as always (with Jimmy falling into the harbor basin with every opportunity) - but all ye who are about to watch this movie for the first time, be prepared for some VERY creepy moments!

But speaking seriously now, as a long-time fanatic of classic B movies: to my knowledge and in my opinion, this is about the MOST underrated B mystery movie of all times.

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